Address by President Nelson Mandela at a luncheon in his honour hosted by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Brasilia

our Excellency, President Cardoso and Mrs Cardoso; Excellencies; Distinguished guests; Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for your kind words of welcome to me and my delegation today. It is indeed an honour for me personally to be the first South African President to pay a State Visit to the Federative Republic of Brazil. My visit, as did yours 18 months ago, reminds us that we are neighbours with only the South Atlantic separating us.

On being invited to visit Brazil, I discovered that in the last twelve months, many other Heads of State and Government and Ministers from different countries had visited Brazil, among them our own Deputy President and Minister of Trade and Industry. I was also told that in Brazil, I would learn to dance properly so that I can do more than just shuffle. Since I did not want to be left our of the fun, I quickly accepted the invitation.

It is understandable that Brazil is such a popular destination. Any visit to the world's fifth largest nation and ninth largest economy is bound to leave one awe-struck. Your vast natural resources and your creative, passionate and diverse population make it a rich experience. Your history, including the African connection and the struggle for Brazilian democracy, is an inspiring example of a nation's victorious emergence into a world filled with economic obstacles. By opening your economy and implementing your Real Economic Stabilisation Plan, you have within a few short years, managed to bring major economic benefit to the majority of your people.

In Africa, as in the international arena, you have established a respectable name for yourself by championing the cause of peace and political stability. Your active participation in Mozambique and Angola have made positive contributions to the stability of our region.

South Africa is proud to know you and to consider ourselves your friend.

There are many reasons for us to deepen our friendship further. Both our countries have emerged from troubled pasts to establish democracy and build unity amongst our diverse societies.

We share the need to overcome wide disparities between rich and poor. We both face tremendous challenges to eliminate poverty, create employment, provide housing, health and welfare services to the majority of our people.

Each of our countries, we believe, has valuable lessons for the other to learn in this regard. Our reconstruction and development programme has brought innovative methods of delivering services to people. Together with our neighbours in Southern Africa, we are creating export-oriented development corridors based on large scale infrastructure projects that open many opportunities for job-creating investment.

Brazil's attempts to reduce disparities through programmes like the Community Solidarity Programme and the National Family Agricultural Programme provide valuable lessons for other countries at similar levels of development, including South Africa.

In the few short years since South Africa achieved democracy, there has been rapid progress in relations between our two countries - clearly reflected in the increased volume of trade.

During the past year more South African businessmen have visited Brazil to establish business links, and it is our sincere wish that this will lead to stronger ties between our two countries.

We appreciate Brazil's support in helping us gain entry into the fold of regional groups such as the Zone of Peace and Co-operation in the South Atlantic as well as the Cairns group, which deals with a subject of vital importance to both our countries, namely agriculture.

Mr President,

Our two countries, have already started working bilaterally and on the international front to turn our zone, and our regions into a nuclear-free, drug-free, environmentally-sound place to live in. Our active roles in our respective regions and our common views on world trade, on the restructuring of the United Nations and on South-South Co-operation make us natural partners in the efforts to make our continents focal points of growth and prosperity in the next millennium.

It is now my pleasure to ask you all to join me in a toast to His Excellency, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the people of Brazil; and to the flourishing of friendship and co-operation between our peoples.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website